Illegal genetically engineered Chinese rice discovered in Europe

Press release - September 5, 2006
Greenpeace International released findings today that show illegal GE (genetically engineered) rice from China has contaminated food products in France, Germany and the UK. Greenpeace has notified authorities that the illegal GE rice poses serious health risks and calls upon European governments to take immediate action to protect consumers.

Greenpeace discovers illegal GE (Genetically Engineered) rice from China has contaminated food products brought in the UK, GE is also found in food products in France and Germany. Greenpeace is calling for immediate recall measures to ensure no further contaminated rice enters the EU.

Greenpeace offices and Friends of the Earth in the UK tested samples of rice products such as vermicelli, rice sticks and other processed foods. Five positive samples were found containing an illegal GE not approved anywhere in the world. However this could be the tip of the iceberg with rice products included in everything from baby food to yoghurt. (1)


“These findings are shocking and should trigger high-level responses”, said Jeremy Tager, GE rice campaigner, Greenpeace International. “Consumers should not be left swallowing experimental GE rice that is risky to their health.”


The illegal GE rice, genetically engineered to be resistant to insects, contains a protein or fused protein (Cry1Ac) that has reportedly induced allergic-like reactions in mice. 1 Three independent scientists with expertise in the field of GE and health have issued a statement backing the health concerns raised by Greenpeace International. (2)


Greenpeace is calling for immediate worldwide recall, measures to ensure no further contaminated rice enters the EU and the urgent implementation of a preventative screening system for countries with high contamination risks. Demanding GE-free certification for food from countries that grow and produce GE crops is reasonable, cost-effective, and necessary to protect Europe’s consumers.


This recent rice contamination in China began with field trials; the rice is not currently approved for commercial growing because of mounting concerns over its safety. Yet an investigation by Greenpeace in 2005 showed that research institutes and seed companies in China had been illegally selling unapproved GE rice seeds to farmers. (2)


“This revelation bodes ill for innocent consumers in India as well. If GE rice is found to be contaminating markets in the EU, where regulations against transgenics are so much more stringent, it’s not difficult to imagine how far GE contamination could spread in India, says Divya Raghunandan, Greenpeace India GE campaigner. “It is time for our government and consumers to realise that there’s no such thing as a safe or contained field test for GE crops. Once it’s out there, it’s everywhere.”


Cry1Ac, the manipulated gene found to be contaminating Chinese rice imports in the EU, is identical to the gene present in Bt Brinjal – a GE food crop slated for field trials in India later this year. “Despite the fact that the rice never moved beyond open field trials, the contamination is believed to be widespread. We can expect exactly the same disaster if Bt Brinjal is approved for open field trials in India,” added Divya. “This scandal should be a rude wake-up call for anyone

concerned about keeping our food supply safe from genetic contamination. Once illegal GE crops are in the food chain, removing them takes enormous effort and cost. It is easier to prevent contamination in the first place.”


Greenpeace campaigns for GE-free crop and food production that is grounded in the principles of sustainability, protection of biodiversity and providing all people to have access to safe and nutritious food. Genetic engineering is an unnecessary and unwanted technology that contaminates the environment, threatens biodiversity and poses unacceptable risks to health.

For further information, contact

Jeremy Tager, Greenpeace International GE rice campaigner +31 646 22 11 85
Suzette Jackson, Greenpeace International communications officer +31 6 4619 7324
Jaikrishna R, Greenpeace India GE Campaigner +91-98455-91992
Gene Hashmi, Greenpeace India Media Officer + 91-98456-10773

Images are available of the contaminated rice products. Contact the Greenpeace International picture desk at +31 20 718 2058.

Notes to Editor

(1) All tests were conducted by an accredited and independent laboratory. Details available in background briefing ‘Illegal experimental GE Rice from China: Now entering Europe’s Food chain’.">
(2) Scientists’ statement from Pr. Ian F.Pryme (Dept. of Biomedicine, University of Bergen, Norway), Pr. Gilles-Eric Séralini (Président du Conseil Scientifique, du CRII GEN, Université de Caen, France), and Dr. Christian Velot (Conseil Scientifique du CRII GEN, Institut de Génétique et, Microbiologie, Université Paris-Sud, France) is available at
(3) Further testing indicated that the whole food chain had been contaminated, with the most recent case being the contaminated Heinz rice cereal products in Beijing, Guangzhou and Hongkong. The Chinese government, in the wake of the situation, reportedly punished seed companies and destroyed illegally grown GE rice.